“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
This past week has officially been too much. Hearts and minds are weary, and there is a collective need to press the restart button and let go. Remember: Letting go does not equal forgetting. After I wrote the three sentences before this one, I had to leave my office to procure chocolate, coffee, and take a breezy autumnal walk around a gorgeous gingko-tree-lined campus. That “mental smoke break,” as my non-smoking best friend refers to this type of boring self-care, allowed me to re-engage with the task at hand, to figure out what to say after the emotional drain of the past week.
So, without further adieu, here are a few things we can do to practice self-compassion and mindfulness with this new week:
- Listen to beloved Brazilian singer Rosa Passos’ smooth “Jardim” or Amanda Palmer’s ragey lyrics in The Dresden Dolls “The Kill”
- Read the Poetry Foundation’s Poems of Protest, Resistance, and Empowerment
- Take Harvard Medical School’s recommendations for self-compassion: 1) comfort your body, 2) write a letter to yourself, 3) give yourself encouragement, and 4) practice mindfulness
- Discover what the Mayo Clinic says volunteerism does for lowering stress levels and rates of depression and living longer.
- Go on a physical adventure. Walk, kayak, hike, whatever gets your heart pumping and away from media.
- Blow bubbles. Weird, I know. But the very act of blowing bubbles forces you to concentrate on your breath, pause, and focus. Also, if you add a toddler to the mix, bubbles become instantly entertaining.
- Get thee outside and inhale fresh air, walk among living, green things, including that tree at the bus stop (we do not have to commune with nature on a preserve or live in rural areas to be ‘at one’ with the natural world researchers note).
- Quit hunching over electronic devices like Quasimodo and pounding pot after pot of coffee. Stretch and put on music that inspires movement. Silence your phone, if only for an hour.
- Spend some time with your best friends. Seriously, Northwestern University’s SuperAging Program research shows spending time with close friends is good for psychological well-being.
- Laugh at Ethan Kuperberg’s tongue-in-cheek “I’m Taking a Break from Social Media” proclamation via The New Yorker.
- Breathe. No, seriously, breathe deeply. Research shows deep breathing can improve negative emotions, sustain focus, and lessen stress.
- Journal. There are numerous psychological and physiological benefits.
- Read or watch something funny: McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Oatmeal, and The Calming Manatee (just remember to click on the orange Calming Manatee button to generate a new meme).
- If earnest, empirical examples of self-compassion are just too much, consider Healthy Living for Hot Messes’ suggestions:
- Muzzles for your family
- Tranq darts for your neighbors
- An entire cheesecake
- A crown made of dollar bills
- A kitten dispenser
- 5 miles between you and anyone else
- Scented candles
And, please let me know which scented candle inspires serenity now. Ultimately, whenever times are tough, Brian Andreas’ words usually help: “Anyone can slay a dragon, she told me, but try waking up every morning & loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” Even if loving the world the next morning is too hard, a good night’s rest usually helps us tolerate one another for yet another day.